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VFW honors veterans

The Journal - 2/23/2017

Littlefork and International Falls Veterans of Foreign Wars posts honored eight veterans at the Littlefork Care Center at Koochiching Health Services on President's Day.

They were presented with emblems that recognized their time in the United States Army, Navy, Marines and the Air Force.

"The Koochiching Health Services decided to do this for their other facilities through St. Francis Health Services, and they decided to do it for us as well at the same time," Elisa Klemetsen, the care center's activity director, said. "We purchased these emblems to put outside the residents' rooms. Each one got their own little plaque."

Among the eight veterans were Dick Stapleton, Navy; Mark Endries, Marines; Ernest Berg, Army; Pete "Gene" Morgan, Air Force; George Sirotiak, Army; and Don Rutledge, Air Force. Two of the veterans did not wish to be named, according to staff.

Morgan, 89, was a part of the U.S. Air Force for 32 months. A native of Ranier, he enlisted in the Air Force as a 17-year-old.

"If I waited until I was 18, I probably would've been drafted into the infantry," he said. "Because I enlisted at 17, I got to pick my branch."

Morgan recalled his most memorable time in the Air Force was when he was flying over the Pacific Ocean.

"They had us fly north over the North Pole and swing all the way to Canada and back," he said. "That was quite a trip back in that age. It was about a 14 or 15-hour trip."

Stapleton, who didn't disclose his age, was a part of the U.S. Navy's Construction Forces.

Originally from Ladysmith, Wis., Stapleton started training to become a sheet metal worker through a social program called Neighborhood Youth Association. He then was sent to work in a shipyard before entering in the Navy.

During his time in the Navy, Stapleton said he helped construct destroyers, along with helping construct one aircraft carrier.

"There's one time we had a contract with (United Kingdom'sRoyal Navy) to build destroyers, but they ended up cancelling the order after we built them," he joked.

Stapleton was stationed in Guam twice during his tenure.

Both Morgan and Stapleton said they have been a part of the care center for a few years now, and they expressed gratitude towards the VFW for the emblem.

"It means a lot," Morgan said. "I'm very happy to be recognized, especially on President's Day."

"I'm glad that they did that," Stapleton added. "It's nice for the VFW to give us that honor."


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